For me, photography is all about being passionate about the art form and stubborn about getting the results you imagined. So despite the unprecedented once-in-a-century circumstance of the pandemic and the physical distancing, I did not let photography take a back seat. On days of strict lockdown, I spent hours studying theories, reading books on various techniques and sweeping through hundreds of pictures taken by the great masters of the trade. And when the lockdown relaxed, I regularly went out with my new Nikkor 50mm 1.8 prime lens and put all the theories I learnt to practice.
Portrait photography was a genre that preoccupied my conscience the most, and I focussed a lot of time and energy on upskilling myself in this. For that, I arranged and went out for many portrait shoots over the spring and summer of 2020. These shoots, along with my theoretical brainstorming, helped me shift gears in my photography techniques and offered me a life-altering experience. I followed my usual natural style of accentuating my subject through light and shadow play and tried to freeze the moment. Not only did I try to freeze the moment, but I tried to elongate that moment in my pictures. Natural lighting made it more tricky and even unpredictable at times, but the challenge was well accepted.
Overall, these portraits provided me with an artistic and philosophical release from the caging boundations of a rapidly changing and unpredictable world. It helped me pen down a poem of sorts through shutter clicks (or at least I think so). I am not sure whether these portraits collectively give a poetic or any philosophical direction to my art in any way, but it definitely made me think deeper about the practice of my art and the path that I want to follow in the years ahead keeping portraits as one of the key genres of learning and exploration.
The late winter afternoon photoshoot under a dim Sun continued with I and Elena attempting to experiment and take full advantage of the natural setting of Wienerberg Park. We walked around amongst the dead foliage, broken twigs, felled tree trunks and the skeleton-like woods. We tried a combination of headshots, chest level, waist level and some full-body portrait shots. I found myself gaining confidence and even being able to guide her before composing a shot. Elena’s occasional tip, not only for our ongoing shoot but also on the theories and philosophies behind photography, proved vital in this shoot. Also, she provided me with some million-dollar post-production tips, which worked wonders in the actual post-production process later.
Harmonising with Elena’s belief in nature’s healing power and the pulse of life that emanates from it, I tried to integrate the natural elements around us. I followed her playful body movements and made sure that I got enough sunlight just on the right spot of her facial profile. Her jewellery accessories and the twigs and grass combined to make a beautiful collage, thereby creating wondrous stories through the snapshots.
The shoot with Elena was not only a fun-filled portrait model shoot, but it was a seminal learning experience for my photographic journey. It was not merely a dialogue that I shared with her in the shoot but more like a Sohbet-an enlightened discourse. The Sohbet, captured in my lens, pulsated the healing power of Mother Nature even in the middle of a dry winter landscape.
My model, NX, was an enthusiastic young and ambitious actress. She was confident and thorough in her interactions with the camera. She displayed an unusual calm and elegance during the shoot and was sure that she would move her body to get the perfect shot.
My work, as the photographer, became relatively easy owed to NX’s expertise. However, a rainy early summer afternoon by the Danube made it harder to shoot. The incessant drizzling and my good for nothing umbrella tested my patience and my shooting skills with practically one hand.
In this photograph, I asked her to lie down on one of the big rocks on the Danube banks and arch backwards while looking directly at the lens. This was one of the perfect shots of the day-I had the right aperture settings; I got the right frame and to top it off , my model had an elegant pose on the rocks in her beautiful reptile print one-piece bikini.
The shoot with TM was long and exhaustive that summer afternoon. After an hour of shooting, as we decided to take some snaps in one-piece lingerie. We tried different shots against the wall, and none seemed to do justice to the lingerie.
We moved on to back shots and ended up with some really artistic ones. The heels gave the lingerie a formal appeal. The moment I asked to keep her hands on the wall and slightly lift one of the heels, the picture took a new dimension. Though the light was quite splattered, I could manage a reasonably good shot, contrasting the skin tone and the lingerie.
When my model, TM, insisted on using the plant as a prop, I was sceptical about how we could use it in our composition. I was in two minds about including the pot at the base of the plant. So, I asked TM for ideas, and she took the lead in the experimentation. We took a dozen shots and sat down to finalise on a couple of them.
We ended up selecting this picture as I felt that drooping of the leaves from the left contemplated her pose and gave depth to her expression. The way she played around with her skirt, harmonised with her pose in general. It pushed the boundaries of her sensuality, igniting a flame of curiosity in the viewer’s mind.
My first boudoir photo-shoot began with a lot of nervousness, self-doubt and creative blocks. For the first quarter of an hour I had no clue what I was doing. I was rushing all the theories on monochrome boudoir in my mind that I had ever read; and I was asking my model, LM, to copy poses from photographs I randomly recalled from memory.
Gradually after about a dozen shots, I decided to go back to the basics of composition, light and shade dynamics and the classical techniques of figure drawing. Coupled with selective improvisation to the specific conditions of the location, I applied these very basic understandings of the human body, to create an ample collection of boudoir/noir nude photographs.
I followed the natural reactions of my model to the lens for the rest of the hour and tried to capture her raw expressions with very little guidance and manipulations. By putting extra emphasis on the series of points of interaction between the sunlight and the shadows on my model’s body (including in the post-production), I was able to overcome the technical and conceptual barriers of composition, controlling the light and posing my model to produce the following collection. What started out as a nervous experiment finished as an expressive and confident series of boudoir photographs.